In May 2006, Fred Morris joined the Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps.
It wasn't a particularly great time for the Troopers as the decision had already been made that the corps would not march that summer in order to get its financial house in order.
Morris says he walked the streets of Casper town for two weeks, talking to folks about the reputation of the corps. He assured them that he would pay his bills when services were provided. Then he took the job as corps director.
In 2007, the corps marched. "That was so hard," said Corey Moore, who would lead the corps as drum major in 2009 and 2010. "Everybody was a rookie."
In 2008, the corps improved.
In 2009, the Troopers made Finals for the first time since 1986, performing Broadway tunes in "Western Side Story."
In 2010, the corps finished 15th at Drum Corps International Championships.
This year, the corps went back to its roots, played Americana music that had a prairie feel, gave the 11th Ohio Cavalry soldier uniforms an updated look.
And while other corps told elaborate, complex "tales" in 10-1/2 minutes on a football field -- vampire love and old film come to mind -- the Troopers were trying to find their way home along a gold canvas road with a heart-thumping brass sound and sharp Color Guard in ecru lace and wheat-colored prairie costumes. They went back to their roots at the DCI Championships and used ancient yellow and white 11th Ohio Cavalry flags in a sunburst at the end of the road.
Morris had been dispatched back to Casper in the third week of July to get the flags out of storage at the Troopers headquarters. He spirited them in his luggage on a flight to Texas to meet the corps.
The visual effect gave the Troopers 11th place out of 41 in the semifinals.
The percussion scored 18th, not because they didn't sound great, but because judges thought there wasn't enough percussion in the program. In other words, they wanted more.
And the brass? The brass sounded so good that more than one audience suspected synthesized sound, when in reality, it was choreographed breathing that supplied the infinity chord and more.
The Troopers lose 29 of their 142 to aging out this year. Morris said the number rivals "the big dogs" in World Class drum corps.
He knows of kids who left the Troopers for "the big dogs" who want to finish their careers as Troopers.
Honor. Loyalty. Dedication. It's not 10-1/2 minutes on the field, it becomes the way for all things -- from behaving on the bus to figuring out your own laundry and spending money.
So Fred Morris turns 60 this month -- and he's back for more. He has plans -- 80 horns instead of 72, increasing the Color Guard yet again -- maxing out at the DCI limit of 150 on the field.
Because it was a "stellar" season. Using a single word, "awesome," he says.
"We couldn't have asked them to do another minute," he said. "Without a doubt, their best show was Friday (Championship semifinals)."
And, really, when they leave it all on the field, what more could anyone ask.